Debt Crisis: The EU is Waterboarding Greece

The austerity measures forced on to the Greeks are not only unfair, they set a bad precedent for the rest of Europe

by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen

Published on Friday, May 7, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

On the day of the eurozone leaders’ meeting in Brussels, it is essential that we look at what is really going on in the European Union. The Conservative majority in the EU has again lost sight of the big picture. Its punishment of Greece is like the nation-state equivalent of waterboarding. It seems that it is unable to grasp the gravity of the situation. It is targeting Greece but refusing to see the dangers of its lack of EU coordination and inaction.

For four months, EU centre-right governments have applied a torturous drip-drip approach with no less than four separate austerity programmes being demanded. These agonising tactics are due solely to Angela Merkel’s “policy of prevarication”. Despite experienced progressive voices in Germany recommending a quicker response, the chancellor refused to budge until the last minute. The pain for Greek people has been as much about their justified anger that each line in the sand seems destined to be crossed, due to external demands. This is not how you inspire a population to embark on a tough journey.

To the architects of the deal between the IMF, the European Union, and Greece, the PES says yes to tough decisions, yes to long-term coordination but a resounding no to any opportunistic attempts to dismantle core social standards. The Greek government has been profoundly patient and resolute. It has showed political courage. Yet the EU Conservative majority is trying to use these kinds of austerity measures to force through social cutbacks across Europe. This is but a cynical attempt to roll back fundamental social standards. It does not even make financial sense as it would force thousands into the grey economy – one of the structural causes of the crisis in the first place – or even worse, would force them into abject poverty.

Merkel’s recent statement that “Europe is looking to Germany today” was outrageous. Europe has been looking to Germany for the last four months, never mind today. There is not much point in announcing that you are riding to the rescue if you spent the last four months explaining why you can’t help out.

I call on the eurozone leaders meeting on Friday to take stock of the tragic human consequences of political inaction, and to give a clear political signal that European solidarity can still be translated into concrete action.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen is president of the party of European socialists (PES), which brings together Europe’s socialist, social democrat, progressive and labour parties. This involves coordinating the overall political line and vision of the PES, and representing the party across Europe. He is also co-chair of the Global Progressive Forum.

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